Did you think I, a fan of Miami Vice, wouldn’t do the Bren Ten?
You poor naive sod.
Yes, this is the Dornaus and Dixon Bren Ten, because the 80′s needs to have absurdly large caliber guns what with the Desert Eagle, LAR Grizzly and Wildey magnum. The Bren Ten looks mean, is mean and is one of the biggest flops in the firearms industry. But how does a gun who’s original design is revered as the best thing since sliced bread be one of the biggest failures of the 1980′s gun market? A number of reasons.
So the 1980′s was an interesting time in the gun world, the classic revolvers were seeing their twilight days as the “wonder-nines” took the handgun market by storm. Beretta 92FS’s,SIG-Sauer’s P220 series, S&W 459′s, Glock 17′s and other high capacity 9mm handguns were hitting the US by storm and a weird mix arose in the handgun community.
Some likes the 9mm’s capacity and fast firing while others stood by revolvers and 1911′s for their stopping power and for the more proven designs. And the 80′s saw a rise in guns trying to bridge the gap. While most were simply just various 9mm designs in .45 ACP like the SIG P220, some wanted to improve. Two of those men were Thomas Dornaus and Micheal Dixon. They felt like they had the answer and in late 1979 founded Dornaus & Dixon Enterprises, Inc.
They planned in making a gun in the middle of it. A gun with a 10 round magazine, the most modern handgun techniques behind it and in a round hotter than .45 ACP that could preform similarly to .357 Magnum.
A large frame, combat handgun, or the “Ultimate Combat Handgun” as they called it. They took the relatively unknown at the time CZ-75 lockwork for the basic design and contacted a very influential man to help then design these guns.
Who was that man?
Yes, Jeff cooper collaborated with Dornaus & Dixon to make these pistols. This meant that these guns are pretty modern with features such as a “cockable and lockable” safety, similar to a 1911, large sights, loaded chamber indicator and a selector that edited how magazines came out, either a little bit or fully loose. For a gun made in the 1980′s, it’s still reasonably modern.
That doesn’t mean it’s without faults. An often criticized feature is a cross-bolt safety built into the slide, allowing for one to block the firing pin, rendering the gun useless. Besides being pretty useless, it also leaves the gun working normally and is in the middle of the serrations on the slide, so it’s not impossible to accidentally hit it when racking or manipulating the slide and drawing it and hearing a click.
Now with the design quirks dealt with, we come to it’s round of choice. 10mm Auto.
Big bullet specifically designed by Cooper to give the Bren Ten an edge, this round was made by Norma and was effectively a .30 Remington case cut down to pistol size with the bullet around the size of a .38-40 Winchester. Except this was pushing 1,000-1,500 fps with certain loads. So to say this blew .45 ACP out of the water was an understatement.
Now we get to what killed the Bren Ten, because just because it’s big and with a big bullet and a big name behind it doesn’t mean good. Dornaus & Dixon had a bad start and it only got worse as the 80′s went on. First was that the guns were around $500 in 1980′s money so around $1,200 in modern money. Second was the well talked about magazine issue.
You see, the 10mm was brand new so D&D thought that as a bonus, they’d include a magazine that could feed both 10mm and .45 ACP. Problem was that they didn’t feed to well so D&D effectively asked to have them sent back to be swapped with new ones. Another was that a lot of guns were shipped without being checked for deficiencies and those were also coming back. So there’s effectively a giant pile of Bren Ten’s sitting at their shop, some to go out, some to get repaired and some not even sold. All of this effectively killed the company and Dornaus and Dixon folded in 1987.
Normally, this would be the end, but there’s more to the Bren Ten’s story. Cause 2 of the guns were used in Miami Vice.
Oh yes, one of the most famous cop dramas ever made, Miami Vice is an artifact of 80′s culture, with the rise of drug cartels, synthesizers and a shit load of celebrity cameos, it did more than promote the combination of Armani Suits and T-shirts and the Daytona Spider/Ferrari Testarossa. It also promoted 2 Bren Ten pistols.
Yes, Don Johnson’s character Sonny Crockett was to, by Micheal Mann’s request be armed with the most modern pistols he could get. This included a Detonics Pocket 9, Detonics Combatmaster and most famously, 2 Dornaus & Dixon Bren Ten’s. The story goes that Micheal Mann’s production company went to Tom Dornaus himself to get the guns and Dornaus fumbled up 2 blank-fire only models in .45 ACP for the show. This worked as .45 blanks were notoriously bad for jamming but in a gun intended for something bigger, it’d work fine.
The guns, brushed in hard chrome to be more visible on television were used until the 3rd season, where they were replaced by the S&W 645. This was to continue Mann’s request for modern pistols and since by 1987 D&D were out of production, it’d seem ill-fitting to keep it. This has made the Bren Ten very noticeable in pop culture and many owners have their gun “Vice’d” where it’s refinished in a similar chrome finish.
It also won’t be the first time a gun was build from parts in a designers house ,but that’s another story. The Bren Ten also popularized 10mm Auto, where Colt used it in the Colt Delta Elite and later used for a brief stint by the FBI, in the S&W 1076, MP5/10 and later used as a base for .40 S&W and is beginning to see a resurgence.
So that is the Bren Ten’s story, a gun with great names behind it stopped by money and mismanagement. Many attempts have been made to bring Cooper’s cannon back into production. Richard Voit tried it with Peregrine Industries only to be stopped by the Savings and Loan scandal of the early 1990′s. Vltor Weapon Systems said in 2008 that they were to make a remake of the gun as the Vltor Bren Ten, though a number of problems have delayed production.
The Bren Ten is an interesting gun to say the least, the first of the large caliber combat guns with a very rich history behind it. Whether it’s on the beaches of Miami to the streets of Tuscon, the Bren Ten will make a very big impression.